Socioemotional Development in Toddlers

The big word "socioemotional" refers to how people develop emotionally as a result of their social interactions. Your toddler's little social life will have a big impact on how he grows emotionally. His social environment includes his inner family circle, his caregivers, playmates and strangers. You can support healthy socioemotional development in your child by always being on hand to help guide your little one through each hurdle and triumph.

Sense of Self

As your little one leaves his baby years behind and becomes a toddler, he suddenly becomes aware that he's his own separate person, says the California Department of Education 1. Not a part of mommy or daddy but his own self, with his own likes, dislikes and feelings. Sometimes this is fun, like when he can run around the playground on his own, and sometimes this creates separation anxiety, like when he realizes he can be left.


Have you noticed that your toddler will play next to other children rather than with them? That's because during these years your child is more interested in observing than engaging, says the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. Toddlers are great imitators. Copy cat is actually a useful game that helps toddlers understand what it's like to put themselves in the shoes of others. It's the beginning of empathy, though it will be years before your child fully develops the ability to understand that other people have meaningful feelings that need to be respected, too.

Emotional Regulation

Temper tantrums. Meltdowns. Blowups. The toddler years are full of them. That's because these are the years during which your little tyke becomes aware of the different range of emotions he's capable of, but he hasn't quite got a handle on how to deal with them, says My Health Alberta. As he develops socioemotionally -- that big word again -- he learns how to identify what he's feeling and the appropriate ways to handle those feelings both in public and in private. In addition, as he observes others he begins to recognize emotions in them, another stepping stone on the road to empathy.

Impulse Control

Consistent social interaction helps toddlers learn how to stop and think about acting on impulses, says the California Department of Education 1. As your little one becomes aware of his capacity for emotions, he also becomes aware of his ability to have control over acting on those emotions, especially when surrounded by his peers. While around others, your child learns what is socially acceptable, how others react and the consequences of his actions. Most importantly, he'll learn how to stop behaviors that result in other people getting hurt. Toddlers are very physical, from hugs of love to tantrums with fists flying. Mingling with others helps teach them what types of touch are good and what types are bad.

Be Hands On

Your tyke totally needs your guidance through the toddler years. He isn't going to understand social do's and don'ts on his own. He needs you there to let him know he's safe and secure. He also needs you to help him navigate through the emotional minefield of social interaction. Be on hand to encourage healthy communication, avert potential disasters and soothe wounded feelings. It's only with your direction that your child is going to be able to make the most of his toddler years -- in fact, of any of his years.